Defense and rebounding decided a matchup Saturday that was billed as a battle between freshmen phenoms Stanley Johnson and D’Angelo Russell, as the Arizona Wildcats knocked off the Ohio State Buckeyes 73-58 in the Round of 32 at the NCAA tournament's West Regional.
The game’s head coaches, Sean Miller of Arizona and Thad Matta of Ohio State, worked together at Xavier earlier in their careers and both of their teams looked familiar with the other's game plan on Saturday. The Wildcats, though, were the ones who controlled the second half after leading by just one at halftime.
But a 21-12 run to start the second half allowed Arizona to pull away. It was 33-31 Wildcats when Gabe York hit his first of consecutive three-pointers, and when York hit a third from outside with 11:52 remaining, their advantage stretched to double-digits for the first time. His fourth triple two minutes later pushed the lead to 13, and Arizona rolled from there.
York finished with 19 points, making 5 of 9 from three. Fellow guard T.J. McConnell also had 19 en route to becoming the first Pac-12 player in NCAA tournament history to log 15 points, six assists, five rebounds and five steals in one game. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finished with a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Kaleb Tarczewski had nine rebounds and two blocks.
Arizona is one of the nation’s tallest teams and used its height to dominate the glass—it finished with a 43-26 rebounding advantage—and force the Buckeyes into taking long jumpers. Ohio State hit only 5 of 17 from three-point range for the game.
The Johnson-Russell showdown was a dud. Johnson made only 1 of 12 from the floor and finished with four points, though he did have 10 rebounds. And Russell was just 3 of 19 from the floor, and went 13 minutes without scoring in game’s middle. He finished with just nine points. Sam Thompson led Ohio State's scorers with 18 points.
Arizona will face the winner of Xavier and Georgia State in Los Angeles on Friday in a Sweet 16 matchup.